24 January, 2018

Profile 127: Hawker Hurricane Mk.IV as flown by F/O Bert Newman, 6 Sqn RAF

Get a coffee/beer/water/whatever—if you're ADD, at least it will jump around enough to keep interest!

So, last week, I overheard a wealthy trio talking about investing in Bitcoins. One had made the leap, the other two were eager to learn more.  Of the two, one expressed a cautious, if not panicky caveat, "But what happens if the power goes out?!"

While they were marveling at the prospect of getting rich off the zeitgeist of today's tech, it occurred to me that this conversation was actually as old as measured time—humanity has been scrambling for millennia to get rich.

But, spending time around "Old Guys" I've learned that the object of wealth changes over time; the pursuit of money evolves to the pursuit of relationships and that evolves to the pursuit of meaning...and somewhere, before "the end," the stuff of life's riches become as etheral as Bitcoins—memories.

Think about it.  What would you pay to download the mind of your grandparents?  One step further.  How about the mind of Abraham Lincoln? Amelia Earhart? Aristotle?  One step even further—what would you do to ensure that your memories are available for someone else?

Hold that thought.

Have a look (above) at my rendering of Hawker Hurricane Mk.IV, serial number KZ191 as flown by RAF fighter pilot Bert Newman.  Though I think the artwork is passable, the title, "The Last Hurri" is of greater note.

This project came up because a champion of historical aviation (gonna keep him nameless at this point) insisted that I meet Bert and hear his story.  So, I did.  And, as fortune would have it, Bert's old mount, KZ191 was nearby too, albeit in a VERY unrestored state.

Have a look and see for yourself. Trust me, it's an airplane...

KZ191 today.  But don't let her condition fool you—she's (mostly) complete and I suspect interesting days are coming.  I have a few other photos but I think I'll hold onto them for now...
Unimpressed?  KZ191 is actually in pretty great shape!  But, it's going to take some highly qualified work to bring her back to life and when/if that happens, this particular Hurricane will be welcomed by many as a particularly important link to an amazing past.

Today, depending upon sources, 40-41 Hawker Hurricane airframes exist.  Of that number, 12-14 are in flyable condition.  This is good for history geeks because the "Hurri's" legacy is powerful. It flew before the war and ended up soldiering through WWII's last days (in both the ETO and PTO).  As a weapon, the Hurricane was an outstanding one; easy to build, easy to fly, easy to adapt and easy to repair.*

And then, there's that oft-told anecdote (among the most nerdy of history nerds) that the Hurricane was the real star of the Battle of Britain...

In any event, in the case of KZ191—being a Mk.IV variant—was specifically designed for ground-attack use.  The Mark IV was given additional armor protection**, an especially reinforced wing and equipped with two 40mm cannon (and two .303 machine guns for scaring the enemy). RAF 6 Squadron appropriated the nickname of "Tin Openers" on account of the 40mm's usefulness in splitting open enemy armor.

But.  Have a look at the artwork again.  There are some points to make...

I. KZ191 is shown in her 6 Squadron markings circa mid-1945.  However, the airplane was initially acquired in January of 1945 by the 351st RAF squadron and flown by Yugoslav partisans against the Germans in Yugoslavia and Adriatic Sea.  Thus, while flying with the Yugoslavs, her markings were slightly different.  See below...

I found this photo online; © unknown.  But, it shows the Yugoslav "roundels" to great effect.  Too bad the North Koreans ripped it off, but I suspect that graphic-design work is hard to come by in NK.

II. By early 1945, a significant amount of the combat missions flown by the 351st, 352nd and 6 Squadrons involved use of rockets against Kriegsmarine shipping in the Adriatic.  To accommodate these aerial sledgehammers, the 40mm cannon were removed.

Rockets—specifically the British 60lb "RP-3"—were more preferable to the cannon on account of their reliability and power.  However, combat use of rockets required exceptional skill as the launching aircraft had to be in perfectly coordinated flight and fired at precisely the right time.   No idea what the hit-percentage must have been but I've heard it to be well under 10%...(yikes).

I made the little sketch below to illustrate a Hurricane attacking a German ship...

Yet, if a rocket DID hit the target, the result was a hellish example of why weapons developers like to hire people who understand physics.  The photo below is one that Bert provided.  It shows what happened when a 25lb, armor-piercing variant of the RP-3 hit the barrel of a German Tiger tank.  Fantastic power don't you think?!

Notice the RH corner—that little picture is a single-frame from the "gun camera" film recording the attack.

III. My artwork illustrates the rockets under the left (port) wing.  A fuel tank would be attached underneath the other wing but I didn't draw it because it gave the already dowdy shape yet another grotesque bulge.  However, though many Mk.IV Hurris from the theater had the rockets under the right (starboard) side, Bert specifically remembered flying with them on the left as well.

However, it must be appreciated what the rockets and fuel tank did to the Hurricane's already flat-faced aerodynamics.  Fully equipped, a Mk.IV was barely faster than a Cessna 172!***

If you're getting the picture that 'this' was a challenging mission, you're right.  To that end, have a watch as Bert describes the process.  The man's memory is fantastic but if you ever wanted an example of "typical British understatement," This is it.  On a personal note, I think Bert could make being attacked by Grizzly Bears seem, somehow... "interesting."

(My apologies for the craptastic quality of the video—all I had was my GoPro!)
IV. KZ191 is depicted without a letter code because it's likely she didn't get one when the RAF re-re-acquired her from the Yugoslavians sometime mid-1945.  During this time, she was assigned to 6 Squadron.  In July of that year, 6 Squadron moved to then-Palestine/now-Israel to mind the Crown's oil interests against terrorist attacks.

Have a look at the photo below—it's a page of Bert's logbook.  I marked Sept 20, 1945 with a blue arrow as it's one day he flew KZ191.  As a moment of history, it's rather insubstantial.  But, it's pretty cool to be able to connect the dots between places and things, don't you think?  Anyways, Bert flew KZ191 at least three times.

Old log books are supremely cool.  If you ever get a chance to see one, I hope you see the kind where the pilot wrote about the day and detail!

What happened next isn't quite clear.  But, on May 14, 1948, Israel came into its own and the Brits left.  I wonder if the Hurricane's obsolescence was, by then, so well established that even the fledgling Israeli Air Force**** couldn't find a place for the few left behind.   Without spare parts, qualified mechanics and logistics support, KZ191 was carted to a salvage yard in Jaffa where her wings were removed for scrap value.

How the remaining pieces of KZ191 got back to England is another story for another time.

Ok.  Hold THAT thought.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a Ph.D-type about my work and he commented, "You must have a very large library for your resources."  True, I have more history-type books than I'll ever need.  But, he was genuinely surprised when I explained, "One of my best resources is the modeling community."

"Oh really?!"


Modelers rock!  These people invest enormous resources into an almost manic pursuit of perfection.  They're never satisfied, perpetually curious and enormously critical.  Who better ask about (insert arcane detail question here)?!"

So, to this point, have a look below.  It's KZ191 as crafted by UK modeler Alan Price.  He's one of the excellent modelers that have helped this blog out over the years and also a brilliant history geek (as most of them are, too).  His work is displayed in museums and private collections as well as gracing numerous magazine covers.

When deciding to draw Bert's Hurri, he was the first person I turned to with questions like, "What did the rivets on the radiator's armor plating look like?" and "What camouflage pattern did KZ191 have when it left the factory?"  Obsessive?  Indeed.  But thank gawd Alan knew; it was pretty cool to hear Bert whisper (in that fantastic accent), "Oh my!  It looks as if you've certainly done your resahch..."

All credits to Alan.

Have a look at his work.  It's awesome, don't you think?!

KZ191 by Alan Price.  Gorgeous!  The only thing that's missing is the smell of oil, dope and the amber cast of a setting Mediterranean sun on a dusty air strip...
®2018 Alan Price


So, back to Bitcoins.

As near as I can tell, if the 'power goes out,'  Bitcoins are gone.   Poof.  Putting money into an invisible system that requires constant (and complicated) input seems rather stupid, doesn't it?

But.  Every day, each of us are investing time, energy and resources into something just as hard to figure as Bitcoin and with the same goal of achieving some sort of riches—the thing called "life."   Interestingly, I've never heard of a financial statement handed out a funeral.

So, what's a life worth?

Plato wrote, "The unexamined life is not worth living."  Perhaps, but I prefer the corollary, "The life that's not worth living is the life that's not shared."

As near as I can tell—and this is based on spending time with "Old Guys," life's wealth is a mutual fund (of sorts) that includes demonstrated character, contribution to society and the quality of our relationships.

And the currency of our worth are memories.

Bert used a magnifying glass to examine his log book and my art.  Kind of a poetic way to end this post, eh?

Thanks to Bert for sharing his memories with us.  And, since you've downloaded this information from the Technosphere into your mind, I hope you now feel a bit richer, too. :)

*Think about it—a bullet/shrapnel pokes through canvas? No worries.  Patch it up.  However, a bullet/shrapnel pokes through stressed metal covering?  That requires a bit more surgery to fix, especially if any stress-bearing areas are also compromised.

**This additional armor was, of course, required for low-level attack on enemy ground forces.  One of the challenges in drawing KZ191 was figuring out what the armor-plating on the belly scoop would look like as it was discarded as soon as it wasn't needed.   Maybe if KZ191 gets restored, it will have a 'proper' armor-plated belly??

***A C-172R cruises around 140.  An all-up Hawker Hurricane Mk.IV cruised at 160.  Plenty of time to take a sip of coffee, adjust sights, give a little pep talk to the gun crew and then yell, "fire!"

****Interestingly, the Israeli Air Force equipped itself with the awful Avia S-199.  THIS story is a great object lesson for people who bitch about the quality of their equipment.  If I am ever forced to draw airplanes with nail polish and q-tips, I will remember the IAF and their "Mules."  Read this.